by Alan Hoskins, KCKCC
Kansas City Kansas Community College’s defending national champions started off the 2020 Jayhawk Conference season exactly the way they started last season – with a loss.
For the second straight year. Labette foiled the Lady Blue Devils’ conference debut, pulling away in the final minutes for a 79-63 win.
The loss ended KCKCC’s 14-game winning streak and dropped the No. 2 ranked Blue Devils to 18-2 heading into their conference home opener Saturday against Hesston (2 and 4 p.m.) Ranked No. 11 in the latest NJCAA Division II national poll, Labette won for the 13th time in a row and improved to 15-3,
“The final score isn’t really reflective of how competitive the game was,” KCKCC coach Joe McKinstry said. “I thought our girls fought hard and were in a good position all night. We just ran out of gas the final four or five minutes.”
Indeed, KCKCC closed to 64-58 midway through the fourth quarter on back-to-back 3-pointers and a layup by Caroline Hoppock only to have the hot-shooting Lady Cardinals run off 13 straight points to break the game open.
Labette was a torrid 20-of-30 for 66.7 percent shooting in out-scoring the Blue Devils 48-35 in the second half.
“We stopped shooting threes in the second half,” Labette coach Mitch Rolls said. “We were settling in the first half. Everybody started getting to the rim (in the second half) and good things started to happen.”
Angel Williams, a 6-0 sophomore center, led Labette with 16 points and 10 rebounds.
“Every time there’s a big matchup – Kamryn Estell is one of the best bigs in the country – she shows that she’ll rise above,” Rolls said. Diamond Jones added 11 points and Jessica Martino 10 for the Cardinals.
Hoppock led all scorers with 19 points on 7-of-11 shots (4-of-7 from 3-point) while Estell added 14 points (5-of-6 shooting), Aliyah Myers 11 and Mercer Roberts 7. Hoppock, Roberts and Brodi Byrd had four rebounds and Estell, Myers, Tiaira Earnest and Adoreya Williams three each for KCKCC, which was out-rebounded 38-31.
Rebounding and turnovers were pivotal in the contest. Labette was able to get off 19 more shots than the Blue Devils (68-49), partially because of 21 KCKCC turnovers and by allowing the Blue Devils only three offensive rebounds. The Cardinals, on the other hand, had 11 offensive boards, several of which were converted into field goals.
“Once again, turnovers and missed opportunities around the rim (22-of-49 for 44.9 percent) really put us in a tough spot and those things are hard to overcome against good teams,” McKinstry said. “Hopefully, now we have an idea of what our effort and consistency levels need to be in order to put ourselves in a better position to win these games.”
In other Jayhawk openers Wednesday, unbeaten and No. 6 ranked Highland took the early lead with a 63-55 home-court win over No. 4 Johnson County while Hesston won a 55-53 thriller at Fort Scott. In other games Saturday, Highland goes to Labette while JCCC plays host to Fort Scott.